Why electric cars don’t matter, and can’t help. There is no doubt about global warming. There is no doubt that it is humanity causing this problem. It’s a serious problem, and it’s not a matter of belief. You don’t get to choose sides on this. We need to address this literally burning issue urgently - for our own sakes. (The planet’s gunna be OK.) Humanity is on the line. Here in ‘Straya the Department of the Environment and Energy produces an annual greenhouse gas inventory to an internationally agreed set of reporting standards. The latest report says that we, as a nation, emitted 533 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2015 - that’s up 27 per cent in 25 years, despite having 41 per cent population growth in the same time. Passenger cars are responsible for 44 million tonnes - out of 533 - or about eight per cent of total emissions. So even if electric cars were a breathtaking panacea for those problematic passenger car emissions, we really would not be ameliorating the greenhouse emission problem in a significant way by deploying them widely. The big emitter here: Electricity. Number one with a bullet - 192 million tonnes. That’s 36 per cent of the problem overall and materially almost four-and-a-half times bigger than emissions from passenger cars. I’m certain the car is demonised disproportionately, compared with running the air conditioning, having four refrigerators, or living in a house four times bigger than you need. Unfortunately, if you want to make a dent in a problem, you must first acquire good data. And, inconveniently, the facts are so annoyingly, routinely, out of alignment with our beliefs. I’ll break down transport in Australia for you. Total transport emissions: 92 million tonnes. Passenger cars: 44. Trucks: 23. Every other mode of transport: 25. We drive a helluva long way in ‘Straya. According to Ausstats, passenger vehicles drove 176 billion kilometres in 2016. That’s almost 12 return trips to Pluto. So, instead of driving to Pluto again, let’s do what Einstein would call a thought experiment. Let’s have Elon Musk channel his inner Oprah Winfrey and give us all a free Model S - the shitbox poverty one - the 75D. You get a 75D. You get a 75D. Etc - 13.7 million times. Because that’s how many passenger vehicles there are on Australian roads. The poverty Model S promises (quote) “up to 490km” from its 75 kilowatt-hour Panasonic battery pack. That’s awesome. Best-case scenario: About 15 kilowatt-hours for 100km. If you scale that up for our usual annual 12 return trips to Pluto, that’s about 27 billion kilowatt-hours of additional electricity we’d need. According to the World Nuclear Association, ‘Straya produced 258 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2016. So we’d need slightly more than an extra 10 per cent total electricity to run our 13.7 million Oprah-style gifted poverty pack Model S 75D shitboxes. Shifting to a fleet of Teslas would add another 20 million tonnes. So, we magically erase 44 million tonnes of emissions … but we add back 20 million tonnes of additional CO2 from the additional electrical energy required. So, we’re 24 million tonnes in front. That’s a 4.5 per cent improvement. If we were instead to pay for those cars - they are $112,000 each, full retail, but I’d suggest if we ordered almost 14 million of them we’d get maybe a third off. That's one trillion dollars. For a hypothetical 4.5 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. It’s ridiculous. There would have to be dozens of ways you could spend one trillion dollars to reduce CO2 emissions - such as building photovoltaic arrays and manufacturing hydrogen. This tells me - of course - that the only thing green about Tesla is the marketing. This is about cashing in on rich but dumb people’s good intentions - the desire to do the right thing for the future. It’s bullshit marketing par excellence… It’s obvious how we could cut global CO2 emissions by almost 600 million tonnes - and that’s more than our national total. It’s dead simple. We export three times as much thermal black coal - every year - as we burn onshore. (Data source: World Nuclear Association.) We could hypothetically cut 600 million tonnes of CO2 at a cost of $22 billion, versus spending one trillion dollars to save about 20 million tonnes of CO2 by all driving Teslas. That’s a statement about return on investment, national priorities and how we do business globally. And what it would take actually to get serious and tackle this problem. So-called clean coal. World’s most outrageous oxymoron.
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